The NY Jets are far from the only team that turned to the University of Alabama as a frequent target for draft prospects every April, and much of the reason for the program's historic success over the last 15+ years has been due to now-former head coach Nick Saban.
The legendary college coach officially announced his retirement from the sport on Wednesday, ending a 16-year tenure at Alabama. There's perhaps one stat that sums up Saban's time with Alabama more than any other.
Saban lost just 29 games in 16 years at Alabama. During that same time, the school had a whopping 44 players selected in the first round. That's an average of almost three first-round picks per year.
That includes future NFL stars such as Amari Cooper, Minkah Fitzpatrick, DeVonta Smith, and many others. The Jets dipped into the Alabama pipeline on four occasions during Saban's tenure, drafting two Crimson Tide products in the first round.
Here is a look at all four Alabama players the Jets drafted in the Nick Saban era.
Quinnen Williams headlines a list of four Nick Saban players the NY Jets drafted
- DT Quinnen Williams - Round 1, 3rd overall (2019)
- WR ArDarius Stewart - Round 3, 79th overall (2017)
- CB Dee Milliner - Round 1, 9th overall (2013)
- QB Greg McElroy - Round 7, 208th overall (2011)
The Jets have had a varied history of selecting Saban products in recent years, with a number of players who didn't pan out. Quinnen Williams stands alone as the only Saban/Alabama draft pick for the Jets who received a second contract with the team.
Williams has developed into one of the best overall defensive players in football. He's been named to consecutive Pro Bowls, was voted first-team All-Pro in 2022, and received one of the largest contracts in Jets history this past offseason.
Williams has become everything the Jets hoped he would be and more, but the same cannot be said about the other three Saban draft picks to head to Florham Park.
Wide receiver ArDarius Stewart flamed out after just one season in the NFL, catching only six catches in his Jets career despite being selected in the third round. He's one of the many Day 2 wide receiver draft busts for the Jets in recent memory.
Dee Milliner is one of the bigger draft busts in franchise history, as injuries and inconsistent play derailed the career of a player the Jets once hoped would replace the great Darrelle Revis. Instead, Milliner played just three injury-riddled seasons in the NFL and never appeared in another game after he was let go by the Jets.
Finally, there's former fan favorite Greg McElroy. A seventh-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, McElroy never had the arm talent to be an NFL quarterback, although he did start a game for the Jets in 2012 — one of only two games he ever appeared in.
McElroy never amounted to anything, and Milliner and Stewart will go down in Jets history as infamous draft busts, but Williams' greatness might be enough to make up for the other Saban protegee's deficiencies.
The Alabama-to-NFL pipeline has been inconsistent at best for the Jets during the Nick Saban era, but they can at least thank the now-former Crimson Tide coach for helping develop their superstar defensive tackle.